Evolutionary socialism by Edward Bernstein 1899.

Edward Bernstein was a disciple and a collaborator of Marx and Engels. Developments in the economy made him revise his views on the thought of Marx. Bernstein rejected the view that capitalism was on the verge of a final crisis. He believed in the socialist movement. He wanted workers to extend democracy and to fight for their rights. Bernstein made an appeal for evolutionary instead of revolutionary socialism.

Bernstein looked at the materalist interpretation of history and historial necessity. A materialist in this view is a Calvinist without God according to Bernstein. In Marxism a materialist interpretation of history means an economic determination. Marxallowed for chance as well.

Economic developments in the modern world are not progressing in the way Marx thought it would. Marx saw an increasing number of of workers and a decreasing number of captialists. This development isn’t happening as Marx expected. New capitalists are being created. The economic crisis isn’t leading  to the overtrow of the present system. Bernstein examines the economic facts in his day. He believed that a rethinking of socialist strategy was needed.

Workers can create co operatives and trade unions to improve their economic conditions. But they have their limits. Workers must be engaged in political work to achieve socialism. That means that the question of democracy must be raised. Liberalism broke the chains of previous fetters of economic development. Socialism will break the chains of economic compulsion. The task of social democracy should be the establishment of democracy and workers rights. This means that parliamentary work, the extension of the franchise will be an important task for social democracy. In practice social democracy means everyday work for democratic and economic rights for the workers.

In conclusion Bernstein examines the difference between cant and Kant. When socialism refuses to deal with facts it engages in utopian thought. Instead of a Marxist approach Bernstein said we should look to the philosophy of Kant. Bernstein recognise that Marx was an important thinker. Social Democracy should seek workers freedom with a free critical science at its service. We need to develop beyond Marx in the spirit of a practical reason in the spirit of Kant against the cant of some forms of socialist thought.

 

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Author: irishfabian

I am a member of the Irish Labour Party in Cork East.

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